Restaurant: Tea Garden
TAPpy Points (pros): Given its convenient location in the heart of the FiDi, Tea Garden is pretty much the only choice for professionals working downtown craving Taiwanese food. The restaurant’s selection is pretty impressive for such a small space. In addition to Taiwanese staples such as Minced Pork over Rice, Beef Noodle Soup, and Pork Knuckle Soup, there is an extensive boba drink list, buns, breads, rice rolls (Fan Tuan), and ZongZi. My friends and I all shared the same overall opinion of this restaurant. It wasn’t the best Taiwanese food we’ve had in the Bay Area, but it was good and convenient enough that we would come back. They are also open until 10 PM, which is a plus considering most places in the FiDi close much earlier than that.
UnTAPpy Points (cons): Pass on the Taiwanese Gua Bao. The bao part was hard and obviously not fresh, the pork belly dry, and the peanut powder and cilantro flavor are too muted to make this a true Taiwanese Gua Bao. They are pretty stingy on providing napkins – you have to go up and ask for napkins as it’s not provided out in the open. Noodles don’t hold well on the journey back to the office.
Recommended dish: Pork Chop over Rice, which is served atop some minced pork and rice, a tea egg, and a side of fermented mustard leaves. The spicy wontons were tasty, but more salty and vinegar-y than spicy. They do offer Sriracha, which give the dish a much needed spicy kick.
Other tips/suggestions: This place is cash only, so remember to hit the ATM before coming here. Also, this place is best for take-out as seating is extremely limited. For the non-meat eaters out there, you can request a vegetarian noodle soup options. If you order any noodle soups to go, I would ask if it’s possible to separate out the soup stock from the noodles. The noodles in my beef noodle soup were way too soft by the time I got back to my office.
Reviewer: Jennifer Wu